Canadian stocks retreated Thursday as weak economic data from Europe and China weighed on the market. Reports of political unrest in gold-rich Mali also dragged mining shares lower.
The S&P/TSX Composite Index lost 74.68 points to finish at 12,361.81.
The Canadian dollar stumbled 0.75 cents at 100.04 cents U.S.
In Europe, the Markit composite purchasing managers' index also slid to a three-month low of 48.7 in March from 49.3 in February, signaling an accelerated contraction in private-sector activity across the euro-zone.
Europe and China are key markets for Canadian products, particularly commodities.
Mining and energy stocks were particularly hard hit, as reports of a coup in the Western African country of Mali battered shares of mining companies.
Avion Gold Corp. shares sank 11.7% to $1.21. The miner holds 80% of the Tabakoto and Segala projects in Mali. All operations at Tabakoto and Kofi are running normally, it added.
Robex Resources Inc. skidded 20.9% to 17 cents. Robex, a mining exploration and development company, has nine permits in Mali.
Great Quest Metals Ltd., another mining company active in Mali, dropped 20.7% to $2.38.
Barrick Gold stock sank 0.4% to $43.12.
In the energy sector, Imperial Oil doffed 2.4% to $44.30, while Canadian Natural Resources settled 3.7% to $33.68.
Shares of Lululemon Athletica Inc., which had earlier gained on better-than-expected earnings, picked up 3.4% % to $75.98
On the economic beat, Statistics Canada reported that those drawing regular Employment Insurance benefits increased by 12,400, or 2.3%, to 561,100 in January. This increase returned the number of beneficiaries to roughly the same level as in June 2011. Eight provinces saw hikes, the largest in Quebec.
The agency also said retail sales rose 0.5% in January, a fifth increase in six months, propped up mostly by sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers
The TSX Venture Exchange settled 36.85 points to 1,540.75, while the Nasdaq Canada index subsided 4.12 to 410.75
Nine of the 14 Toronto subgroups were negative on the day. Global base metals and energy stocks each shed 2.2%, while metals and mining issues slid 2.1%.
The five gainers were led by consumer staples, ahead 0.7%, while financials and telecoms were up 0.2% each.
In New York, stocks fell Thursday as investors were rattled by worries of a global growth slowdown. Both China and Germany reported soft manufacturing data.
The Dow Jones Industrials stumbled 78.48 points to end the session at 13,046.10. The selling was broad with economically sensitive commodities, including copper and oil, falling more than 2%.
All 10 Dow sectors were down, with oil and gas producers, including Chevron and Exxon, among the biggest decliners. Caterpillar and Alcoa were also big drags on the blue-chip index.
Still, traders say volumes have been abnormally low this week, indicating that investors don't have strong convictions about the direction of the market.
The S&P 500 gave back 9.81 points to 1,393.08, while the Nasdaq subtracted 12 points to 3,063.32
Dollar General shares popped after the retailer reported earnings of 85 cents per share on $4.2 billion U.S. in revenue, topping projections. The company said same-store sales increased 6.5% over the quarter.
FedEx shares dropped, despite reporting better-than-expected earnings and sales, citing record holiday shipping. The company, seen as a proxy for the health of the broader economy, said it expects its 'solid performance' to continue.
ConAgra reported earnings of 51 cents U.S. per share on $3.4 billion U.S. in revenue, slightly better than analysts had expected.
Athletic apparel maker lululemon athletica reported that revenue surged 51.4% to $371.5 million U.S. in the fourth quarter, topping analyst estimates.
McDonald's said Wednesday that CEO Jim Skinner plans to retire at the end of June, ending a seven-year turn at the helm of the fast-food restaurateur. The company's current president and COO, Don Thompson, will succeed Skinner.
Early Thursday, a reading on Chinese manufacturing compiled by HSBC showed the index hit a four-month low in March. The new reading came in at 48.1, down from 49.6 in February.
A reading below 50 indicates the sector is contracting, and HSBC said that a significant drop in new orders acted as the primary drag on manufacturing. Reflecting a broader slowdown, China lowered its growth target and hiked gasoline prices in recent weeks.
In matters economic, the U.S. government reported that first-time claims for unemployment benefits in the week ended March 17 dropped to 348,000, a four-year low and a better number than analysts had expected.
The Conference Board's Leading Indicators Index for February increased by 0.7%, more than the expected 0.6% uptick.
The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury gained a bit of ground, pushing the yield lower to 2.28% from 2.29% Wednesday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.
Oil for May delivery dumped $1.74 to $105.53 U.S. a barrel.
Gold futures for April delivery fell $10.50 to $1,639.70 U.S. an ounce.